Category Archives: Advent and Christmas

30 November: Blest Fishers

For so our Lord was pleased when  
He Fishers made Fishers of men;  
Where (which is in no other game)  
A man may fish and praise his name.  
The first men that our Saviour dear  
Did chuse to wait upon him here,  
Blest Fishers were; and fish the last  
Food was, that he on earth did taste.  
I therefore strive to follow those,  
Whom he to follow him hath chose.  

W. B. (from "The Complete Angler 1653" by Izaak Walton)

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew, fisher, Apostle, missionary, martyr, patron of Scotland. Izaak Walton was the first biographer of George Herbert, whose poetry we read yesterday. Jesus also chose a civil servant in the person of Saint Matthew, and he 'hath chose' you and me as well, so let's enjoy the light-heartedness of this verse!
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The Synod Moves On.

General Secretariat for the Synod
www.synod.va – media@synod.
NEWS RELEASE – 29.11.2022FRA – ITA  – 
Doing Synod is doing evangelisation
Meeting with the Presidents and Coordinators of the Continental Assemblies of the Synod.Vatican City, 28-29 November 2022
 
The meeting of the Presidents and Coordinators of the Continental Assemblies gathered in Rome on 28-29 November to prepare together the Continental Assemblies, which are the culminating moment of the second stage of the Synod process 2021-2024, concludes this morning. The meeting took place at the offices of the General Secretariat of the Synod.

“I feel gratitude and wonder. I have heard the testimony of a living Church!” was what Cardinal Mario Grech expressed at the end of the meeting, “The sharing of these days shows that the journey is already well underway and that we have much to learn from each other. I have great hope for our task, which is and remains first and foremost evangelisation: the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. This is the synodal path. In this journey we must not be afraid of tensions, which can also be healthy. We must not exclude anyone and listen to everyone! Even those outside the Church’s formal enclosure, because sometimes the Church is present where we did not think we would find it’.

On the afternoon of Monday 28 November 2022, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the participants. After the initial greeting by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and General Rapporteur of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the Presidents or Coordinators of the Continental Assemblies presented the fruits of the process underway in their respective continents or regions, followed by a time of dialogue. The meeting, held in an atmosphere of great fraternity, lasted two hours.

Below is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich’s address of greeting.

Your Holiness, thank you for taking the time to receive us and to give us your advice for the synodal process.
With the continental phase of the process we begin our missionary discernment. With this stage of the Synod we are, in fact, already experiencing a first universal dimension of the process. This stage says, in fact, that the different Churches must not be isolated in their journey and the circular dialogue of the continental assemblies will benefit the Churches of all continents.
Your Holiness, a synodality that wants to be Catholic needs the care and advice of Peter. We need you, because we need a healthy indifference that bears witness to freedom in the Spirit, but then because we also notice some temptations on this road.
And I would like to talk about a temptation we sometimes see in the media: it is the temptation of ‘politicisation’ in and of the Church, that is, living and thinking the Church with the logic of politics. Some have an agenda for the reform of the Church; they know very well what needs to be done and they want to use the synod for that purpose: this is instrumentalising the synod. This is politicising. On the opposite side are – to borrow your word – the ‘indietrists’ who do not understand that a true Catholic tradition evolves while remaining a tradition in its time. They too would like to put the brakes on the synod process. We, on the other hand – and we heard this morning in our work – we want to be able to enter into a true discernment, an apostolic, missionary discernment, so that the synodal Church can carry out its mission in the world. We want to walk together, with you and above all with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus, in order to mend our Church.

List of Participants

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General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)

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29 November: Advent Light III: enable us to return!

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.
Let us pray,
God and Father, 
to those who go astray you reveal the light of your truth 
and enable them to return to the right path. 

Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism 
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling 
and reject everything opposed to it. 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

We can all, each and every one of us, go astray; indeed, we all do go astray, day by day. Let us consider one miss-step we have made today, and turn again from it back to the path: Repent!

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28 November: Advent Light II, at table.

If you were in church yesterday, no doubt you’ll have seen the Advent wreath with a single candle burning. Do you have one at home? There’s still time to make one, or you could just light a candle. Mrs Turnstone and I have ours on the dining table and we would hold hands around it with the children and sing grace. We now do the same with the grandchildren. We also sing the chorus of the Advent hymn:

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel!

This story is from Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The House of Unexpected Sisters’.* Mma Ramotswe is ready to serve the evening meal to her husband and two children. Perhaps we could revive the practice of saying grace this Advent, and be ready to find new forms of grace to remind us that all we have is God’s gift, and the greatest gift is the One that came at Christmas.

‘Dinner is ready now, I think.’

She ladled stew into four plates, and placed these, one by one, on the table. Once seated herself, Mma Ramotswe bowed her head and said grace. ‘We give thanks for the food our country gives us, and we think of those who do not have what we have. We give thanks for Africa and for the good things that Africa gives its children.

‘Amen,’ said Motholeli.

‘Me too,’ said Puso.

*Little, Brown, London 2018, p37-38.

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27 November: Advent Light I.

Stencilled star, Hales Place chapel, Canterbury.

This little star is hidden away in a locked cemetery chapel, all that remains of a French Jesuit community that decamped to Kent when religious persecution was raging at home. Among its members was a young Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who was to become a stretcher-bearer during the Great War.

He was attached to a North African regiment and stayed with the men, refusing promotion that would have afforded him greater personal safety. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur as ‘an outstanding stretcher-bearer who, during four years of active service, was in every battle and engagement the regiment took part in, applying to remain in the ranks in order that he might be with the men whose dangers and hardships he constantly shared.’ The example of many priest stretcher-bearers helped bring about a reconciliation between state and Church after the war.

He wrote to his cousin Marguerite on Christmas Eve 1915, “I must tell myself, and I think I’ll come to feel it, that no Christmas night will ever have meant more to me than this one I am about to spend on the straw this evening, by the side of men.”

Far from our commercial Christmas, closer to the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

Lord, help us to see the star of wonder that will lead us through this Advent to the straw and hay of Bethlehem.

Read more here.

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22 November: Lichfield Cathedral’s Advent Calendar

Lichfield Cathedral have shared this Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar. It runs from 27th November, the First Sunday of Advent, until Christmas Day itself, 25th December. We think it will help many people to prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Follow this link:

How to use the Calendar

  • This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us use the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.
  • Try and set aside 5-15 minutes every day.
  • Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.
  • Try and ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.
  • Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.
  • Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

Who is the Calendar for?

  • For everyone who uses the Cathedral website/social media.
  • For all the Cathedral community.
  • For people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

What is the last week about?

The last week of Advent is special: at Evensong (evening prayer) a special antiphon is sung or said before and after the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat. Each begins with an ‘O’ and relates to some facet of Christ’s nature and ancestry

  • December 17 O Sapientia Wisdom
  • December 18 O Adonai Lord of Israel
  • December 19 O Radix Jesse Root of Jesse (Jesse was the father of King David)
  • December 20 O Clavis David Key of David
  • December 21 O Oriens Morning Star rising in the East
  • December 22 O Rex Gentium King of all nations
  • December 23 O Immanuel Immanuel – ‘God is with us’

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Concert of Hope -27 November.

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The Sisters of Minster Abbey are holding a Concert of Hope, an evening of celebration with local choirs and musicians.
 You are very warmly welcome to join us at St Mary the Virgin Church, Minster
on 27th November at 7pm.
Entrance is free and there will be a retiring collection for the work of
“Canterbury for Ukraine”, an Incorporated Association of volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees to settle in Canterbury and East Kent.

Canterbury for Ukraine have been vital in providing support to enable the Sisters to welcome a Ukrainian family to Minster. We now want to support them so that they can continue to offer assistance to those welcoming our brothers and sisters from Ukraine.

We realise that not all of our friends are local enough to attend the concert on the night but some would like to make a donation. We have set up a Go Fund Me page to make this easy- just click below
 
DonatePlease pray for the success of this Concert of Hope!
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the night!

Love and prayers
Mother Nikola and the Sisters of Minster Abbey

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July 22: A memory unlocked.

‘They are French apricots today, and very good and juicy, so much better than the Spanish,’ said the stallholder in Canterbury market. I bought a pound – half a kilo – and she wrapped them in a brown paper bag.

As I said, ‘Thank you,’ the confluence of the warm sunshine, the brightly coloured fruit, the French text printed on the cardboard trays, the brown paper bag and the swing with which the lady sealed it with a twist, all together transported me back half a century. Almost without thinking I went on: ‘I remember when I was young, walking and hitch-hiking across France to visit a friend. I bought a kilo of apricots and a bottle of water, they kept me going through the mountains.’

‘You would remember that!’ she smiled: I did indeed.

Clement and I were in a group sharing an apartment in the seminary, and he was about to be ordained a missionary priest, I was summoning the courage to depart gracefully, but also to share the joy of his ordination. I was coming to the Massif Central from another ordination in Switzerland, travelling cross-country, a challenge then in France.

I hitched a lift to the border on a quiet road, and it was getting dark when I came upon a railway station that offered a slow train to the South Coast. En marche! as they say. I sat in a pull-down seat in the corridor, wrapped in a blanket, and slept fitfully as the kilometres went by. At Nîmes I slept on a bench until morning. The first bus in my direction was going as far as Alès, a market town, where I bought my kilo of apricots and walked on.

Lifts were few and far between but soon I was in the mountains under the blazing sun, eating my way through the apricots and replenishing the water bottle from wayside springs.

I met a cart drawn by two oxen, going the wrong way for me.

I kept on walking, accepting lifts of one or two kilometres until the bus from the morning overtook me, stopped and took me into Marvejols. The driver’s return journey began from there, but his drive from Alès was off timetable so I had a good ride for free. We shared the last apricots.

Statue de la Bête

The driver showed me the famous statue of the Beast of Gevaudan, a man-eating monster from the time of Louis XV; he also showed me the road to my friend’s village where my arrival in a passing car was greeted by Clement’s family with congratulations and a warm welcome. A day later, two friends of his offered a lift to Paris which I gladly accepted.

This month Clement is celebrating his 50 years as a missionary priest.
Let’s give thanks for his faithful service in all that time, and pray that the Synod will point us to ways in which we may all become missionaries, steadfast in the heat of the day, on the hard road; ready to share what we have: apricots, a lift, or the Good News.

Today, Mrs T is gathering damaged apricots from our tree to make jam to share at Christmas time. The BEST apricot jam.

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1 June: the flight into Egypt

On this day the Coptic Christian Church celebrates the Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family, but our image is from Amsterdam. This plaque once adorned the side of a house called ‘The Flight into Egypt’. The fact that the home owner could pay for it to be erected suggests an established, prosperous household, not a little family of refugees.

I’m sure Joseph will have conserved carefully the gold Jesus was given. They could walk to Egypt, no need to entrust their fate to traffickers with half-rotten boats. Our Coptic picture shows a companion with them, is it a guardian angel?

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25 March: The Annunciation

Gabriel, from Saint Mary’s Church, Wreay, Cumbria.

I came across this poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins at an Advent service at Canterbury Cathedral. Hopkins’ final verse is all the commentary we need. Enjoy a feastday to break up Lent!

Angelus ad virginem

1. Gabriel, from heaven's king 
Sent to the maiden sweet, 
Brought to her blissful tiding 
And fair 'gan her to greet. 
'Hail be thou, full of grace aright! 
For so God's Son, the heaven's light, 
Loves man, that He 
A man will be  and take 
Flesh of thee, maiden bright, 
Mankind free for to make 
Of sin and devil's might.'
2. Gently to him gave answer
The gentle maiden then:
'And in what wise should I bear
Child, that know not man?'
The angel said: 'O dread thee nought.
'Tis through the Holy Ghost that wrought
Shall be this thing whereof tidings I bring:
Lost mankind shall be bought
By thy sweet childbearing,
And back from sorrow brought.'
3. When the maiden understood
And the angel's words had heard,
Mildly, of her own mild mood,
The angel she answered:
'Our Lord His handmaiden, I wis,
I am, that here above us is:
And touching me |fulfilled be | thy saw;
That I, since His will is,
Be, out of nature's law
A maid with mother's bliss.'
4. The angel went away thereon
And parted from her sight
And straightway she conceived a Son
Through th' Holy Ghost His might.
In her was Christ contained anon,
True God, true man, in flesh and bone;
Born of her too 
When time was due; who then
Redeemed us for His own,
And bought us out of pain,
And died for us t'atone.

5. Filled full of charity,
Thou matchless maiden-mother,
Pray for us to him that He
For thy love above other,
Away our sin and guilt should take,
And clean of every stain us make
And heaven's bliss, when our time is to die,
Would give us for thy sake;
With grace to serve him by
Till He us to him take. Amen.

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